Equity, academic rigor and a sense of entitlement: Voices from the 'chalkface'


Within the context of a second year mandatory teacher education unit titled Education for Social Justice we challenge students to disrupt a range of notions concerning difference, teaching and learning, and what might be possible in order to create more socially just schools. As teacher educators our aim is to develop conversations around who we are as gendered and racialised subjects who occupy specific socio-economic positions; together with our students we want to move to a more critical, more empowered understanding of race and whiteness. As part of this process we are concerned to prepare teachers to look at the implications that 'being white' has for their own practice. While we want white students to own their whiteness and to become aware of white race privilege, at the same time it is important to provide future teachers with strategies and resources that enable them to move beyond the feelings of guilt that critically examining whiteness frequently engenders.

If our students find the unit challenging, as educators we find the journey equally challenging. When students personalize their discomfort by attacking us, it is not easy to shrug off hurtful comments. What we want to do in this paper, therefore, is to share the stories of our 'tragedies and triumphs' and present a number of impressionistic snapshots that illustrate the effects that teaching about social justice issues has on us as teachers. The issues mentioned in our title form the basis of our narratives: we are firmly committed to retaining our focus on equity as a guiding principle without sacrificing academic rigor, while at the same time addressing student resistance and the sense of entitlement that some bring to the unit. In telling our stories we “ask readers to relive the experience through the writer's … eyes” (Denzin, 2000, p. 905) because “developing forms of pedagogy and practice that are reflexive and transformative of oppressive racial power relations require that we engage in decentering ourselves” (Sonn, 2008, p. 164).


Denzin, N.K. (2000).The practices and politics of interpretation. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd Ed., pp. 897-922). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sonn, C. (2008). Educating for anti-Racism: Producing and reproducing race and power in a university classroom. Race Ethnicity and Education, 11(2), 155-166.